Chapter 8 Fluids, Eating Patterns, Intermittent Fasting, Eating out and the demon drink!
We are often told that we must drink at least eight glasses of water a day but we are not normally told why we should do this. The reason is that dehydration is a very simple way of killing ourselves. I had no idea how important it was to drink lots of water until I started doing research into my own health, and since then I have always taken plenty of fluids. It is good to know that, in fact, other fluids do count, so it is not necessary to drink eight glasses of straight water each day, although I find now that I quite enjoy drinking filtered or still mineral water, particularly when I am thirsty.
Below are some interesting facts that might persuade you to reconsider your drinking habits:
- Our body consists of between 60% and 75% water.
- Our bodies lose two litres of fluid each day through urination, in our breath and through our skin.
- We require even more fluids in warm climates or if we have a high activity level.
- Not drinking enough fluids puts a great deal of stress on the body: kidney function, particularly, will be affected and there is a danger of kidney stones and gallstones forming; the immune function will be impaired, leaving us more prone to infection.
- Lack of water causes a number of problems that we tend to shrug off: such as headaches, or irritability – particularly first thing in the morning.
- Children suffer from dehydration very quickly and this can sometimes be the cause of behavioural problems. Other symptoms are aching legs, water retention, poor skin tone, circles under the eyes, dull and lifeless hair, lack of energy and inefficient break-down of fats.
- Drinking water actually helps prevent ‘water retention’. This is because our body knows that it will die very rapidly without fluids, so it keeps as much as it can in reserve.
- Anyone who is taking medication on a continuous basis needs to ensure that their system is flushed out daily, in order to prevent a build-up of toxins in the cells, kidneys and liver.
Now we can see why water is so important. Here is something else to think about. Loss of skin tone. I lost around 154 lbs. (11 st, 70 kg) over two years initially and, while I think a tummy-tuck would be a good idea, I do not have folds of loose skin and my face has not sagged any more than is normal for my age. In fact, people comment favourably on my skin, despite all my years in the sun when I was a child and since living in Spain. I put this down to a healthier diet, walking and water. I am sure that these regimes explain the elasticity in my skin and I can assure you that I always have a bottle of water close at hand.
Water is essential: without it we die, yet many people are proud of the fact that they never touch the stuff! It was certainly something that I used to boast about. It is immensely important to get your children drinking water and natural low-sugar and diluted juices as soon as you can.
If you cannot stomach water, although this is by far the best way to take fluids, then look at herbal teas, vegetable juices and some caffeine-free teas such as green tea or Rooibos, both of which contain excellent anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants act a little like a vacuum cleaner. They travel through the body sucking up all the damaging free radicals that are causing damage to cells. Even ordinary tea has its benefits, although it is a mild diuretic, so make sure you also drink other fluids during the day.
Do not give children diet drinks, and be sure to resist them yourself. I used to drink diet drink after diet drink, and half an hour later I would be desperate for another. Artificial sweeteners are as bad for you as sugar. They fool the body into thinking that you have taken in usable energy, whereas in fact it has received only one calorie. The body does not release any energy from the cells and you end up feeling tired, and desperate for your next fix. Artificial sweeteners are currently undergoing research because of concerns about possible links to a number of diseases including cancer. To be honest, drinking more than a medium glass of fruit juice is too much sugar each day. Eat fruit by all means but the concentrated juices are not recommended. If you enjoy them then squeeze your own and mix an alkaline juice with it such as carrot. I usually dilute mine with some sparkling water and this is very refreshing.
Sugar in any form is not good for Candida sufferers. The only sugars that I recommend for people with Candida are the natural ones in fruit and honey. Our bodies have taken thousands of years to evolve, yet in the last few hundred years we have bombarded them with refined sugars, additives, preservatives, prescribed medication and environmental pollution. Enough. At the very least we should ensure that what we put into our bodies is as natural as possible, foods that our bodies are able to handle, such as the natural sugars in fruit and honey. If you are following the alternative treatment for Candida in the form of Grapefruit Seed Extract, you should be able to have some natural sugars without compromising the treatment.
How many times a day should I eat?
I have starved myself so many times that the question I used to ask was ‘how long can I manage to go without eating’? What I did not realise was that I was creating my own little mini-famine every time I went 24 hours or longer without food. Most days I would have a cigarette and a cup of coffee for breakfast, followed by six or seven cups of coffee during the day, and several hours later I might have some meat and a few vegetables. I was paranoid about eating after 6.00 p.m. unless I was going through one of my periods of bingeing, in which case I never stopped eating. Similarly, many of my clients will bemoan the fact that they ‘eat only once a day’, usually followed closely by ‘and I still can’t lose weight’.
If we use a car as an analogy, it is easy to see that a car’s engine has lots of moving parts. It requires fuel and objects most strongly to the wrong fuel being poured into its tank: it would come to a grinding halt if you put a pound of sugar in the tank. Clever thing: when it has the wrong fuel, it stops dead! Unfortunately, we do not stop immediately when we take in the wrong fuel. We keep going until an illness or infection comes along and forces us to stop for a while.
Like a car, our body has a constant requirement for fuel, but it has to be the right type of fuel and the mix is important. We use between 50 and 650 calories an hour, depending on our activity level, and we must have a continuous supply of fuel to enable us to function efficiently. Eating is like putting a cheque into the bank: it takes a while to clear. Often we can still feel hungry after a heavy meal. If we have not eaten earlier in the day and then have a lot of carbohydrates for lunch, we get that feeling of tiredness and lethargy. This is because we have the wrong fuel mix, where all our food is concentrated into one meal instead of being spread into other meals throughout the day.
I have experimented a great deal with meals and timings and I achieved my optimum fitness and energy levels when I introduced my body to the concept of six meals a day: breakfast, snack, light lunch, snack, main meal, snack. My blood sugar level stabilised, reducing the cravings in the late afternoon and evening, and my energy level stayed more or less constant throughout the day. I never felt hungry and I was able to complete my exercise regime at various times of the day without feeling tired.
This was fine when I was losing weight as I was also exercising a great deal. Now that I am 20 years older and moderately active I have moved to Intermittent Fasting. Some refer to it as the 5:2 diet where you eat normally for five days and only eat 500 calories within 8 hours on the other two. I admit that I found this tough so moved to eating my meals everyday within an 8 hour period. Depending on your schedule and activities you can drop either breakfast or dinner in essence. I find that I am not counting calories.. I cook from scratch and eat between 11.00 or 12.00 until 7.00 or 8.00 each evening.
I have been following this for just over a year and find that it suits me. My weight is fine as I swim or use my treadmill for exercise. My blood sugar levels are normal as is my LDL cholesterol.
If you want to find out more about this way of losing and maintaining weight here is a link you may find interesting.
Getting into a regular pattern of eating.
Which ever pattern you adopt it does help if you can stick to it. There is a great deal of research about the fact that we were opportunistic eaters and would go hours without food. This is where intermittent fasting comes in as it does allow the body to process the food and also to recuperate. However, young children, growing teenagers and also adults who have extremely active jobs or lifestyle need to eat in a more traditional pattern of breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks between of fruit and nuts if needed.
I would therefore only recommend that you approach eating in this way if you are 40+ and only have a moderately active lifestyle.
The biggest improvement I found in regulating my eating was in night-time snacking, much of which is caused by boredom. I would have eaten my dinner, be sitting watching the often dismal offerings on television, and have an overwhelming urge to check out what was in the fridge. I will deal with this little habit when I talk about willpower in Chapter nine. On my eating program as I lost weight, I would eat six times a day, including a snack at about 9 p.m. Some of my clients actually have two evening snacks built into their program. There is something very reassuring, especially in the early stages of the program, in knowing that you have not finished eating at 6 p.m. and that you do not have to survive with nothing to eat until 8 o’clock the next morning.
I can remember, on various diets over the years, waking up in the morning and agonising about what I would eat in the three meals I was allowed that day. Now I don’t even think about it. Even though I now skip breakfast on my current eating programme; my body knows that I am not going to go hungry, that I will be eating again in a couple of hours.
The other benefit to the eating program is that it stimulates the metabolism. Like a well-oiled engine, your body will be working away, using energy to process the food you are eating regularly. It takes calories to digest food, so look upon it as a form of exercise.
This is also where reducing the grain carbohydrates as you get older and increasing your healthy fats pays off. It takes a lot less energy to burn carbohydrates that you eat than the good fats so you can improve your weight loss by making that change.
The biggest problem my clients seem to have is finding the time to eat, a complaint that tends to subside after the second week, by which time they are slimmer and have much more energy.
Can I still go out to eat?
Of course you can. Remember that this program (a bit like a puppy for Christmas) is for life. If you are going to embark on a new lifestyle, you must build in plenty of enjoyment.
When we used to go out to eat, I would do one of two things. If I was in ‘fat mode’, I would skip the starter, have fish or chicken and salad for the main course and no dessert. (God forbid that the waiter would go into the kitchen and tell the staff that a fat woman was asking for Baked Alaska, no wonder she is that size! I used to imagine them peeking out of the kitchen door and wondering how much I was going to eat.) After such an insubstantial dinner, I would go home and raid the refrigerator.
If I was in ‘diet mode’, however, I would use eating out as a reward: I have been really good all week, so I deserve a treat. (Forget atmosphere, service and conversation; give me everything on the menu! I would look at the desserts first and then decide what to have for a main course.) Does all this sound familiar?
Nowadays when I go out, I go for the whole experience. I love dressing for the occasion, watching the other people in the restaurant and enjoying good service. My obsession with eating has been replaced by an appreciation of flavour and presentation. I often have a starter, but find most of the fatty choices give me indigestion, so generally I opt for soup or seafood. I do not usually have a dessert, but, if I do, I will have made that decision after finishing my main course. Sometimes I will have a cup of decaffeinated coffee and an after-dinner mint, occasionally a brandy or a certain Irish cream liqueur. Main courses with rich sauces and fats no longer appeal to me, but I do enjoy a plain grilled steak, salad and jacket potato.
The word ‘sometimes’ is the key here: ‘occasionally’ is another word I like to use. I used to do everything to excess: smoking, drinking, and eating. Today I enjoy occasions: birthdays, parties, going out two or three times a month. I no longer experience a daily eating frenzy: instead, enjoyment comes from appreciating a special occasion.
When you eat out, do not let it be an excuse to put back all the weight you have lost during the week. Most restaurants now cater for the more health-conscious diner: salad, soup or fish for a starter; steak or salmon, with vegetables and jacket potato or salad, as a main course; fresh strawberries and a little cream for dessert; a couple of glasses of wine and a brandy to finish. You presumably hope you will live a long time, and enjoying a dinner out once in a while is an important part of life. Changing your lifestyle should not mean cutting out everything that brings you pleasure. Do not become isolationist in your obsession with losing weight. Your partner/family/friends love you and want to share things with you. How many times have you been asked out to dinner and said, ‘No. I’m on a diet’? Get out and enjoy yourself from time to time. Make it their reward not yours, and just go for an extra walk that day!
What about alcohol?
Yes, indeed, what about alcohol? As with most things, I would sometimes drink more alcohol than was good for me! I still drink a little too much on occasion, but now that my system has been detoxed my body regards alcohol as a poison. As soon as I drink more than a couple of glasses of wine or spirits, I get the hangover from hell. Furthermore, since alcohol is pure sugar and yeast, my Candida is prone to flare up after a weekend of partying. So, one way or another, I now exercise a great deal more restraint than before. However, I still enjoy the odd glass of wine or a cold beer once or twice a week.
As with food, I no longer drink just because it is there. When we have a party, we might have a fridge full of beer and white wine, a cupboard full of spirits and a rack of red wine left over. However, I am simply not tempted, because I feel so much better without alcohol in my system.
Alcohol may be low in fat, but it is high in carbohydrates, primarily sugars and yeasts. If you have Candida, it will take you longer to get the condition under control if you continue to drink. I suggest that you try to give it up for the initial eight weeks of the program. Failing that, it is better for your system, particularly your liver, if you have one drink a night rather than ten on a Saturday. Again, this is about living your life. Do not deprive yourself of everything you enjoy. Moderation and a little bit of thought is the key.
The best way to enjoy drinking is to go dancing at the same time. I always try to balance indulgence with exercise. I don’t feel so guilty and I find I can still lose weight without depriving myself of a little fun now and then. The other problem about drinking is that, after three or four drinks, your judgement is impaired and all sorts of evil thoughts can creep into your head on the way back from the pub, like ‘Chinese take-away’ or ‘Fish and chips’!
How do I cope with Christmas and holidays?
It can be difficult getting back into a healthy eating and exercise program after a break such as Christmas or a holiday. You will probably have let things slip, eating foods that are higher in sugars and fats, and once you start, it can be tough to stop. It is better to find ways of celebrating or taking a holiday without straying from the program.
When we are on holiday, we generally have more free time, so make sure that you use some of this to walk and exercise more. Drink plenty of water and try to stick to your usual breakfast, lunch and snacks between. Eating out in the evening can still be fun, but choose carefully when you are ordering, and know when to stop.
As soon as your holiday is over, make a commitment to get on the scales and restart the program immediately. It is imperative to get into the swing of things as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the harder it will become. Set a realistic target for a few weeks ahead. Find an outfit that does not quite fit and aim to get into it by a certain date. Take up a new activity. Re-focus on your original goals and visualise yourself achieving them.
©sallygeorginacronin Size Matters 2001 – 2015
The previous chapters of Size Matters can be found here.
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